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The Sin Eater's Confession (Carolrhoda Ya) Hardcover – January 1, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up-When Del is killed in a head-on collision on prom night, Ben and his father, a deputy sheriff in their small Wisconsin town, pitch in to help on the family's farm. This brings them into contact with Del's younger brother. Jimmy seems to be a lost soul and Ben wants to help him, as he would a younger brother. Jimmy confides that he would like to be a photographer, admitting that he likes taking photos when the subjects do not know they are being photographed, and Ben never realizes that he is the subject of one of these candid shots until it is published. The firestorm that the innocent yet sensual photo creates turns the lives of both boys upside down, and the resulting homophobia results in Jimmy's murder. Reminiscent of Bick's Drowning Instinct (Carolrhoda Lab, 2012), the story is told in flashback, this time in diary-type letters. He feels guilt; perhaps he is to blame for what happened. He tries to work out who killed Jimmy, why he made the decisions he did, and why he is compelled to ingest not only his own sins, but Jimmy's as well. He exiles himself, first from his classmates, and then from the future his parents have planned for him-including Yale and medical school. Instead, he becomes a medic and chases death in Afghanistan. He learns that he is ready to stop running from and start running toward his life-whatever happens. He does not act as a moral beacon for others; he wants to escape the situation, and yet finds that his conscience will not let him. This novel should be in all YA collections, and would be interesting reading for members of GSA's.-Suanne B. Roush, Osceola High School, Seminole, FLα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Bick’s latest is refreshingly messy in its psychology, boasting a narrator who blunders repeatedly at critical moments and an author who will not let him, or readers, off the hook without a fight. While soldiering in Afghanistan, Ben writes a confession regarding his final semester in high school, when his friendship with a shy farm boy, Jimmy, exploded into local scandal. Without Ben’s permission, Jimmy published a photo of him that appears rather erotic, throwing Jimmy’s parents into a rage and Ben into a storm of gossip. The tumult climaxes when Ben sees Jimmy’s brutal (possible hate crime?) murder. For self-protective reasons Ben does not go to the police—and so begins a series of cover-ups that have him doubting everything down to his own feelings for Jimmy and his interpretation of events. Bick proves again she is a writer to her core, never at a loss for things to say and uninterested in easy answers. Her handling of Ben’s increasing paranoia and delusion is nimble, making this a violent, and very smart, take-no-prisoners experience. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Carolrhoda Books (January 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761356878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761356875
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Among other things, I was an English major in college and so I know that I'm supposed to write things like, "Ilsa J. Bick is (fill in the blank)." Except I hate writing about myself in the third person like I'm not in the room. Helloooo, I'm right here . . . So let's just say that I'm a child psychiatrist (yeah, you read that right), a wannabe surgeon, a former Air Force major--and an award-winning, best-selling author of short stories, e-books and novels. Believe me, no one is more shocked about this than I . . . unless you talk to my mother.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ashley Ferguson on April 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
So this book... was not at all what I thought it was going to be. I didn't really think it was going to be set entirely in the world as we know it, and I didn't think that the events that occurred were at all what I expected them to be. I knew Jimmy would be dead, but the reasons why completely shocked me. I don't want to give too much away, because I hate when I read a review that spoils a book for me, but this book is probably not going to be what you bargained for.

That being said, I thought Bick's writing was very well done. I was drawn into the book (even though I wasn't really interested in the story once I got a little ways into it), and I found myself wanting to read until the very end. Most of the time, I forgot that this book was being written as a letter from a soldier in Afghanistan named Ben confessing about his involvement in and knowledge of Jimmy's murder. Most of the time though, I just wanted to go into the book world and punch Ben in the face.

I know it's hard to grow up in a small town that doesn't accept differences, but come on Ben. Do you have to be such a jerk? I really just did not connect with him at all, and I think that's one of the huge reasons I didn't particularly enjoy this book. Also, I felt like there was an unnecessary amount of blood and gore when Jimmy died. I'm not usually one to be squeamish over a book's description, but this was a little much. I don't care what sounds a hammer hitting someone make, or what their body looks like when it starts to decompose a little bit. So, don't read this one if you have a weak stomach.

I'm not really sure I would recommend this book to anyone... Maybe someone who wants to see what it's like to live in a small town full of bigots and closed minded people. I don't know.
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Format: Hardcover
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I've read a previous book by Ilsa J. Bick and enjoyed its mix of historical and paranormal elements so I knew her name, which is why I picked up this book. Additionally I was wondering about the title as I've never heard the phrase "sin-eater" before. What does it mean? This reason is explicitly described in the book but you can also read about it on wikipedia.

This book is very different, being roughly contemporary with the main character opening his narration in Afghanistan and leading us through the events that led to his enlisting. Growing up in small-town Merit, Wisconsin has been mostly good for Ben who seems on track for Ivy League acceptance. However events go awry when Ben is the subject of a sexually charged photo by a younger boy, eliciting a tremendous amount of gossip. Soon after, that young boy is found brutally beaten to death (reminding me of Lauren Myracle's excellent Shine) and Ben struggles with the aftermath. I don't want to go to much in detail in case I spoil anything for you.

The two big elements here, I feel, are the character of Ben and the small-town atmosphere. I have mixed feelings about Ben. He has a lot of anger and he makes some very bad decisions that were hard for me to support. He also really likes talking, not always with a purpose and I got bored some times. As for the setting...honestly it was hard for me to picture the whispers and bigotry on display (compounded by the conservative religion of the photographer's family). I've been lucky to live in pretty open places for my adult life and I can't imagine the claustrophobia and limited decisions imposed on the young people here.

Overall: Not entirely my cup of tea but full of ambiguity and lots to think about.
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Format: Hardcover
How did we end up here?

Carolrhoda Lab + Ilsa Bick = GIMME NOW

Really, it's not rocket science. Hey, you want some Carolrhoda Lab books one of which is written by Ilsa Bick? Hey, do my lungs want oxygen?

Okay, book. You've got 50 pages. Go!

I've been reading Ilsa's work since she published DRAW THE DARK and I've watched her craft develop over those years and I have to say she's getting more and more succinct. The voice in SIN-EATER'S was immediately engaging (although the military aspect ended up being rather irrelevant at the end of the day) and before I knew it fifty pages were in my dust. While it still took a little while for the plot to get moving (in proper Ilsa fashion) the voice had a fresh immediacy to it that made any non-action seem exciting because of the weight behind it. I had to read more.

What worked . . .

The voice was probably one of the best and most intricately crafted I've read of Ilsa's yet. As much as I ended up liking Christian in DRAW THE DARK the relatability here was immediate. I didn't need to wait for anything to pick up. Just the right words were used to suck me in and keep me there, regardless of actual action on the page.

As you read you watch the story spiral and it makes you want to reach out and grasp after it, as if you can pull it back and keep it from ever getting so incredibly out of control. I found myself trying to push Ben in the "right" direction and help him get out of the spiral he kept swirling himself into. And the thing is Ben really is an innocent bystander in all of this and he gets pulled in against his will, gets mixed up in something he has no control over and gets pegged as something he most definitely isn't.
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